Beethoven performance axed as British singers refuse to back down to US orchestra's Covid mask demands

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Aden-Jay Wood

By Aden-Jay Wood

Published: 19/08/2022

- 13:15

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 10:44

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus were due to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony alongside the Philadelphia Orchestra

A performance of Beethoven has been axed after a British orchestra refused to back down to a US orchestra’s Covid mask demands.

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus were due to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony alongside the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Edinburgh International Festival.

But the choir rejected the US orchestra’s calls to wear face masks while singing, meaning the event has been cancelled.

As a result, the Philadelphia Orchestra will now perform Beethoven’s Fifth on August 25 because it doesn’t require a choir, organisers have said.

A Philadelphia Orchestra concert in Tianjin
A Philadelphia Orchestra concert in Tianjin


But the cancellation has disappointed many fans, who were eagerly anticipating the event.

David Kemp, who has been attending concerns at the festival since the age of 10, said: I was looking forward to going with my family, who are all diehard Remainers, to hear the Ode to Joy.

"This last-minute change to Beethoven’s Fifth is very disappointing.”

While Jackie Bruce, who had 10 tickets for the event, said she was “looking forward tremendously” to the event.

She added to The Telegraph: “This is absolutely potty – how can a choir sing while masked.

“I am sure the orchestra are all multiple vaccinated and so are the choir, so it is complete overkill.”

A spokesman for the festival explained that the US orchestra’s protocols “differ from current UK guidance”, leading to the change of concerts.

While a spokesman for the orchestra said the decision to axe the concert “was not taken lightly”, adding that a choir wearing masks was “in the best interest of health and safety”.

They added: “While we understand that Scotland’s Covid protocols differ from ours, we felt this precaution was especially important at the very start of a long and complex tour.

"Our advisers at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that singing creates significantly wider and more distant spread of aerosols than speaking does, and that masks reduce this spread of aerosols, and therefore the risks, dramatically.”

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